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Even contractors fed up with slow Restore LA process

BATON ROUGE - Flood victims continue to express their frustration with Restore Louisiana. Many homeowners say they're waiting for paperwork to be approved in order to receive a check. For some, the process continues to be drawn-out.

Baton Rouge contractors working to repair flood homes say they feel the heat too. An option for reimbursement through the Restore Louisiana program allows homeowners to choose to hire their own contractor or working with a contractor through the program. Oscar Martinez says his company, Marquez Construction, LLC has completed work on a handful of homes and has been waiting for payment.

"We're basically footing the bill in every single one of these houses," said Martinez.

Marquez Construction has completed work for about 400 flood-damaged homes. Its team of about 140 crew members is working to rebuild Baton Rouge. The company has purchased cabinets, flooring, countertops, and tubs and they're ready to be paid but clients don't have the money to pay them.

Martinez says for months now, while work goes on, he's been hearing the same line from his clients. That their checks will be coming from Restore Louisiana in three weeks following an inspection.

"They said a check would be received in 2-3 weeks, it's been double that time," said Aundrika Wheller. "My contractor's done, he's finished with the work, no payment."

Wheller says Martinez finished construction in her home off Sherwood Forest before Thanksgiving. She has a 75 percent completion inspection with Restore Louisiana in November but two weeks later found that there was an issue with her paperwork and a new inspection would need to be rescheduled. It's pushed back her check arrival date.

Restore Louisiana is asking homeowners to be patient. It says there is a lot of paperwork that has to travel through multiple departments that all has to be reviewed and approved by multiple people. It isn't until everything's approved that a check is processed and then, homeowner's can count on that three week quote time.

Martinez called 2 On Your Side concerned about whether he should take on more clients that are approved for Restore Louisiana funding.

"{In one case} they had a different case manager take over and when that happened it was like the process started all over again," he said.

As the company continues to take on work, Martinez says he's hesitant, but dedicated to helping people rebuild. Although he says he can't continue working this way forever.

"These are people's lives, these are their homes, people need to get back into their homes," he said.

Restore Louisiana acknowledges some people have expressed their frustration with the process but says it's ultimately the homeowner's responsibility to work out their own contract with their contractor and provide proof the work is being done.

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